The role of multinational enterprises (MNEs) in world trade has increased dramatically over the last 20 years. For MNEs, specific problems regarding taxation arise at both policy and practical levels. At the policy level, countries need to reconcile their legitimate right to tax the profits of a taxpayer based upon income and expenses that can reasonably be considered to arise within their territory with the need to avoid the taxation of the same item of income by more than one tax jurisdiction. At a practical level, the taxing rights that each country asserts depend on whether the country uses a system of taxation that is residence-based, source-based, or both. OECD member countries have chosen a separate entity approach as the most reasonable means for achieving equitable results and minimising the risk of unrelieved double taxation. Thus, each individual group member in an MNE is subject to tax on the income arising to it (on a residence or source basis). To ensure the correct application of the separate entity approach, OECD member countries have adopted the arm's length principle, under which the effect of special conditions on the levels of profits should be eliminated.
These Transfer Pricing Guidelines focus on the application of the arm's length principle to evaluate the transfer pricing of associated enterprises. The Guidelines are intended to help tax administrations (of both OECD member countries and non-member countries) and MNEs by indicating ways to find mutually satisfactory solutions to transfer pricing cases, thereby minimizing conflict among tax administrations and between tax administrations and MNEs and avoiding costly litigation. The Guidelines analyse the methods for evaluating whether the conditions of commercial and financial relations within an MNE satisfy the arm's length principle and discuss the practical application of those methods. They also include a discussion of global formulary apportionment. These Guidelines are updated from time to time.
The OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and Tax Administrations provide guidance on the application of the "arm’s length principle", which is the international consensus on transfer pricing, i.e. on the valuation, for tax purposes, of cross-border transactions between associated enterprises. In a global economy where multinational enterprises (MNEs) play a prominent role, transfer pricing is high on the agenda of tax administrators and taxpayers alike. Governments need to ensure that the taxable profits of MNEs are not artificially shifted out of their jurisdictions and that the tax base reported by MNEs in their respective countries reflect the economic activity undertaken therein. For taxpayers, it is essential to limit the risks of economic double taxation that may result from a dispute between two countries on the determination of an arm’s length remuneration for their cross-border transactions with associated enterprises.
After having been originally published in 1979, the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines were approved by the OECD Council in their original version in 1995. A limited update was made in 2009, primarily to reflect the adoption, in the 2008 update of the Model Tax Convention, of a new paragraph 5 of Article 25 dealing with arbitration, and of changes to the Commentary on Article 25 on mutual agreement procedures to resolve cross-border tax disputes. In the 2010 edition, Chapters I-III were substantially revised, with new guidance on: the selection of the most appropriate transfer pricing method to the circumstances of the case; the practical application of transactional profit methods (transactional net margin method and profit split method); and on the performance of comparability analyses. Furthermore, a new Chapter IX, on the transfer pricing aspects of business restructurings, was added. Consistency changes were made to the rest of the Guidelines.